Phaethontiformes – Tropicbirds

Three good looking species of seabirds with long tails, rarely seen on land

An order comprising the existing Tropicbirds family and the extinct Prophaethontidae family of birds that boasts a multitude of distinctive characteristics that set them apart within the avian world.

One of the most striking features of Tropicbirds is their elongated tail feathers, which can extend to lengths equal to or even surpass their own bodies. These graceful streamers, known as “streamers” or “trails,” give Tropicbirds an unmistakable silhouette as they soar effortlessly above the ocean waves. These streamers play a crucial role in courtship displays, with males showcasing their impressive tails to attract mates during intricate aerial dances.

In addition to their striking appearance, Tropicbirds are renowned for their exceptional flying skills. Despite their relatively weak and tiny legs, these birds are adept aerialists, capable of executing intricate maneuvers with precision and grace. Their long, slender wings enable them to harness wind currents and thermals, allowing them to cover vast distances over the open ocean with minimal effort.

Another notable characteristic of Tropicbirds is their distinctive coloration, with pristine white plumage accented by bold black markings on their faces and wings. This striking contrast not only aids in camouflage against the backdrop of the open ocean but also serves as a visual signal to potential mates and rivals during courtship and territorial displays.

Furthermore, Tropicbirds exhibit unique breeding behaviors, including the aforementioned “floating” strategy employed by chicks to prepare for fledging. Additionally, these birds often nest in remote and inaccessible locations on rocky cliffs or offshore islands, providing protection from terrestrial predators and human disturbances.